A new women’s refuge service, Dacorum Safe Haven (run by Hightown Housing Association and funded by Dacorum Borough Council), has opened for women and families across the borough.

Offering safe accommodation for up to six families, Dacorum Safe Haven provides support for victims of domestic abuse, working closely with other local organisations.

The building was one of the first women’s refuges to be opened in the country over 40 years ago. Thanks to new funding from Dacorum Borough Council, it has reopened its doors to vulnerable women and their families across Dacorum.

Support Worker, Pauline Morris, has worked at the service – previously called Dacorum Women’s Refuge – since 2004 and has seen hundreds of women and children come through the doors. Pauline is passionate about her job and finds it very fulfilling to help women and families through difficult points in their lives. She says:

“From the time they arrive, to the time they leave, the change you see is phenomenal. Many of the women become good friends and stay in touch after they leave.

“The job is really rewarding, it feels great when the children become settled and want to show you their homework or play board games with you.”

Although most women and their families stay for only a few months before they move on to more permanent homes, Pauline cherishes the positive moments and recalls seeing a child, who had been at the refuge just a couple of hours, playing with the toys and her mum observing it was the ‘first time she had smiled in months’. Pauline says:

“Children can be really resilient and adapt to change even though they have seen some terrible things. It’s fantastic to see them begin to enjoy life again.”

In her role, Pauline provides much-needed family support to access health and mental health services, provides a link with the local children’s centres and schools and support around staying safe. Pauline also supports women to tackle their debts and legal issues as well as future housing arrangements and access to benefits.

If you or someone you know is currently experiencing domestic abuse please contact the council’s Homelessness Prevention Team: homelessnessprevention@dacorum.gov.uk or call the out of hours service 0800 018 60 50. If you are in immediate danger call 999.